Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins have made it look easy for Clemson, which has posted eye-popping numbers since losing last month.
Looking to pick up where they left off before their bye, the No. 8 Tigers host Georgia Tech in an ACC showdown Thursday night.
While Clemson’s six-game winning streak to open the season was snapped with a 51-14 loss to then-No. 5 Florida State in Week 8, coach Dabo Swinney’s team has rebounded nicely. After winning 40-27 at Maryland on Oct. 26, the Tigers (8-1, 6-1) posted their highest scoring total of the year in a 59-10 rout at Virginia on Nov. 2.
“The guys deserve all the credit because they have gotten themselves ready and have found ways to win games,” Swinney said. “This is the most complete game that we have had. This team will be judged based on how we finish, but we had a good start to November.”
Boyd went 24 of 29 for 377 yards and three touchdowns, including a 96-yard score to Watkins. The star wideout, who also hauled in a 33-yard TD, has 22 catches for 332 yards in the last two games.
“When you have a guy like him with space, he’s going to have an opportunity to make plays,” Boyd said of Watkins, averaging 109.1 receiving yards. “Sammy did an unbelievable job. You kind of just got to throw your arm up and he will have a chance to get the ball.”
The Tigers, averaging 39.8 points to rank 15th in the FBS, outgained the Terrapins and Cavaliers 1,150-641 in total offense.
“That’s what we plan on doing, keep finishing and staying healthy,” Watkins said. “We need to go out with a bang and have fun. This is what it is about here in November. You got to show everyone that you’re a top 10 team now and not just in September.”
Boyd threw for 397 yards and two TDs and added 63 yards and another score on the ground as Clemson got by Georgia Tech 47-31 last Oct. 6. The Tigers have taken two of three from the Yellow Jackets, with both wins coming at home.
“It’s certainly going to be a big challenge on Thursday night,” said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, whose team can clinch at least a share of the Coastal Division title with a victory.
“Clemson is a tough place to play and they’ve got a lot of explosive athletes. … We look at it as an opportunity to go in and measure ourselves as a team and see if we’ve made the progress we feel we’ve made in the past couple of weeks.”
The Yellow Jackets (6-3, 5-2) have followed a three-game losing streak with three straight wins, outscoring opponents 112-35. Senior Robert Godhigh, who has 11 carries for 200 yards and three scores in the last two games, broke off a 35-yard touchdown and scored from 11 yards out in a 21-10 win over Pittsburgh on Nov. 2.
Georgia Tech, which is averaging 311.2 rushing yards out of the triple option, outgained the Panthers 276 to minus-5 on the ground. The Yellow Jackets are 10th in the country with 103.4 rushing yards allowed per contest.
They haven’t posted four consecutive wins since opening 6-0 in 2011.
“We’re a team that’s fairly physical. We run the ball pretty good and defend the run pretty good,” Johnson said. “When we do the things that we do well and take care of the ball, we could be a tough out.”
Aside from trying to contain Boyd and Watkins, Georgia Tech faces a tough challenge against the Tigers’ ground game. Led by Roderick McDowell, Clemson has run for 411 yards and eight TDs in its last two contests.
The Yellow Jackets have lost seven straight against Top 25 teams since beating No. 6 Clemson 31-17 on Oct. 29, 2011. The Tigers have won 26 consecutive home games against unranked foes by an average of 23.6 points.